When Padua Academy senior Natalia Frabizzio signed up for a business, marketing and entrepreneurship elective in her junior year, she initially had no intentions of pursuing the subject further than fulfilling an elective requirement on her transcript. However, her mindset was quickly changed when she realized the scope of what she was learning.
“The incredible amount of information learned was beyond more than just sitting in a classroom, taking notes and reciting it onto a test. Business was a hands-on, integrative and interactive course. It challenged me to think that there really are no other classes offered for high school students to learn about future responsibilities as an adult,” she says.
With that prerequisite complete, Frabizzio was eligible to apply for the highly competitive Business Leadership program, only open to eight seniors who are selected from an interview process. In this full-year elective, seniors run the school store under teacher supervision, including managing sales and inventory, product development, pricing and marketing, among other responsibilities.
Fellow classmate Annie McTaggart was also an applicant for the program. “I’ve been interested in the school store and the roles of business leaders while I’ve been at Padua and I was curious about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the store and I wanted to be a part of that,” she says.
Both students were accepted into the program.
The junior-year elective and the Business Leadership program are taught by Bethann Higley. She says Business Leadership fosters an active learning environment where students learn by doing, which is a core belief in Padua’s education model. It’s a standard that has made Padua stand out to families with daughters. Founded in 1954 and located in Wilmington, Delaware, Padua Academy combines the spiritual development of the Catholic faith with rare experiential learning opportunities that build well-rounded individuals ready to contribute to society.
As they enter the workforce, students will quickly realize how crucial communication, teamwork and collaboration are to their success, says Higley. “In Business Leadership, they are challenged every day to share their opinion and take into consideration other people’s perspective. Everybody has their own ideas on what to introduce to the store, but we have budgets, and they need to decide together what is a priority,” she says. “Not only do they get a better understanding of how to run a business, they experience personal growth that will stay with them for life.”
McTaggart says this element of teamwork is unlike anything she’s experienced in any other class. “We’ve already developed friendships with each other, even this early in the school year. We had a sidewalk sale a few weekends ago where we brought out our items from the store, including new fall items, and we sold them on the front steps of school. Not only did we do very well in sales those two days, but it was a very fun experience for us business leaders, and we were able to become familiar with our new items as well as interact with lots of customers.”
The small class size has also made the learning experience more personal, says Frabizzio. “Having only seven other students in my class, gathering three times a week and joining together in the homeroom, all eight business leaders (including myself) have had the ability to bond like no other. Each having a different skill set, bringing our differences to the table to successfully work through every difficulty, challenge and decision met, Business Leadership has created an environment to grow socially and intellectually.”
Higley says the most valuable feedback she receives from students is hearing how much they learned in an enjoyable way. “Students talk about feeling a sense of accomplishment from bringing a product to life and seeing it sell well. Other students talk about how they grew more confident in sharing their voice,” Higley says. “These are skills they can take forward and apply to any career they decide to pursue.”
In addition to these courses, Padua introduced a new entrepreneurship course this year in which students work on developing their own business or social venture. It’s a dual enrollment class offered in partnership with the University of Delaware where students earn three college credits while taking the class at Padua. Higley says they begin with identifying a problem in life or the world and work on a solution with creative problem-solving and communication. The course culminates in the spring with students pitching their ideas by participating in the Diamond Challenge, hosted by the Horn Entrepreneurship Institute at the University of Delaware.
The class was recently invited to participate in a Business Challenge event, hosted by the University of Delaware. In a pitch challenge, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority presented a current business challenge and groups of students were given 45 minutes to devise a solution and develop a two-minute pitch. Students from Padua won the competition and were awarded Visa gift cards. Higley says it was intense but served as good practice for the Diamond Challenge later in the year.
At a time when the world can seem so disconnected, the student experience at Padua is the opposite. Engagement, support and community are central to the school, and lived by the students daily, including Frabizzio and McTaggart.
“I like the environment of Padua as an all-girls school, because classmates are very supportive of each other and teachers are always willing to help us when we need it,” McTaggart says. “There is also a very strong community at Padua, and I feel it has been very strong this year [after COVID]. The environment at school this year is wonderful and everyone’s so happy to be at school all together again.”
905 N. Broom St. | Wilmington, Del. | (302) 421-3739
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 7 (October 2021).
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